Texas Flooding Damages Up to 10,000 Insured Vehicles

DES PLAINES, Ill. – The recent flooding in Texas means the end of the road for an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 insured vehicles that suffered water damage.

Salvagelot

Copart facility in Houston, TX

That’s the current estimate from Copart, a company that works on behalf of insurers to handle the vehicles damaged in catastrophes. About 2,500 cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs and other vehicles have already been towed to one of Copart’s locations, a 200-acre processing facility in Houston.

After a disaster, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) works with its member companies, law enforcement and companies like Copart to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed and to process them for sale. All of the cars will be retitled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.

To see a video about the processing of flooded vehicles, click here.

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also entered into the NICB’s VINCheck℠ and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database.

Interior

Interior of a flooded Porsche

NICB’s VINCheck allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in the program. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheck is a free public service available here.

Keeping damaged cars out of the hands of unsuspecting buyers is a major focus of the industry. Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged.

NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the weeks and months after a major catastrophe. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or an unscrupulous dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.

Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.

Consumer Resources

* For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.

* For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.

* For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck℠.

NICB News: VIN Clones, Car Crashes and Multistate Theft Rings

In this edition of NICB News we take a look at some very real car crashes that show claims experts how to spot possible fraudulent claims; we look at a VIN cloning case that caught an innocent buyer off guard; and we’ll hear about the latest efforts to tighten anti-fraud laws in Minnesota.

Florida Town Experiencing a Rise in Tailgate Thefts

Last year the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that tailgate thefts increased by 32% in 2013.

The underground market is lively for items that can be acquired at a fraction of their legitimate cost. Tailgates are no exception. While many of these stolen tailgates end up on similar vehicles, others are simply sold for scrap, which contributes to the nationwide problem of metal theft. TailgateTheft

Tailgate thefts can occur anywhere; several episodes of multiple thefts have occurred in single locations, such as auto dealers’ lots and shopping malls. Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.

Florida is fourth in the nation for tailgate thefts and this past week over eight tailgates were targets in Deltona, Florida. WESH-TV filed the following video report on the incidents.

 


Video courtesy of WESH-TV

The NICB recommends these tips to prevent your tailgate from being stolen:

  • First, if your model has an integrated lock, use it. If a tailgate can’t be opened, it can’t be stolen as easily. If you don’t have one, get one; they are relatively inexpensive.
  • Park with the tailgate as close as you can to an object or a structure to prevent the tailgate from opening.
  • Etch the truck’s vehicle identification number (VIN) or your own personal identification number into the tailgate; this will aid in its recovery and may prevent its theft in the first place.

 

NICB Featured in Several Media Outlets Regarding VIN Cloning Recovery

Last week the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released the story on VIN Cloning to the public. Over the weekend the story was featured on ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America and various newspaper outlets. Below are some of the websites you can find our story at:

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ABC World News Tonight

How Thieves Can Steal Your Car’s Identity

 

 

Good Morning America

VIN Cloning Steals the Identities of Other Vehicles

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald

Invasion of the Car Snatchers?

 

 

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Yahoo! Finance

Stolen Vehicle Clones: Hot Cars in Cool Disguises

 

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411.

Wisconsin Woman Unknowingly Buys a Cloned Stolen Vehicle

The accompanying video describes why consumers should be careful when buying a used vehicle, especially one that’s price “too good to be true.” An innocent woman in Lancaster, Wisc., bought a used GMC Denali for $30,000 and for the last two years she has been enjoying its use. Meanwhile, Carfax notified NICB that the Denali might be a “clone” since Carfax had information that an identical Denali was currently registered in Peabody, Mass.

Investigation by NICB quickly revealed that the vehicle in Peabody was the legitimate vehicle and that the one in Lancaster was most likely a stolen vehicle. The vehicle owner in Lancaster was contacted and agreed to bring her Denali to the police department for an inspection. NICB Senior Special Agent Larry Burzynski confirmed that it was a stolen vehicle taken from Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2007.

Fortunately for the clone buyer, Wisconsin state law mandates that all new and used car dealers be licensed and bonded. If law enforcement confiscates a vehicle from an individual who purchased the vehicle from a dealer, then the dealer must make the buyer whole again. Since the buyer in this case bought the clone from a dealer and it was confiscated by law enforcement, she will not suffer any financial loss from the transaction. But in most other states, this same situation could result in the complete loss of a buyer’s investment.

 

The NICB offers these tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of vehicle cloning:

  • Check the VIN with the department of motor vehicles
  • Use NICB’s free VINCheck service
  • Be careful when purchasing a used vehicle from someone advertising it online or in the newspaper
  • Have a private company conduct a vehicle history report
  • Trust your instincts. If a used vehicle deal sounds too good to be true… walk away
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

 

Who Is the MIG (Manufacturer’s Information) Group?

Imagine you’re one of our law enforcement partners, and you’ve just pulled up and witnessed the final moments of a hit and run accident. It happened so fast, you didn’t have time to write down the license plate, or even get a good look at the driver. You look at the scene of the crime and notice a few pieces of the vehicle scattered all over the street. You have no identifiers for this vehicle, except you know it was a red Ford.

Amazingly… NICB can help! You call our Investigative Assistance (IA) Group directly or work with one of our Field Agents. The IA Group traces these parts back to their original Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Many times, the Investigative Assistant can match component parts in our system, but if they are not successful, they call upon the Manufacturer’s Information Group (MIG) for help! You will soon realize that even though the MIG group isn’t made up of your typical crime fighters, they are a critical part in our fight against vehicle fraud and crime.

After the IA completes an extensive search in our database, a Manufacturer’s Liaison will then reach out to their contact at the manufacturer and request a VIN match to the component part numbers found at the scene. Once the search has been returned from the manufacturer, the Manufacturer Liaison notifies the IA, who in turn, notifies you, our law enforcement partner, or the case Agent. You are provided the full VIN for further investigation. The solution to this puzzle comes to play when you realize that the MIG Group has helped you positively identify this vehicle. Armed with this intelligence, you are able to tie this VIN to a fatal hit and run accident that occurred earlier in the day. You also match this VIN to an active theft from a neighboring state. Your ability to alert local authorities, in multiple jurisdictions, results in the recovery of this stolen vehicle and the arrest of the alleged criminal. Our member company is also pleased, as you’ve helped recover their insured’s vehicle and identified the person allegedly responsible for these crimes.

This was all possible by the great work done by the MIG Department. So you ask, “Who are these masked employees?” They’re five amazing team members, all working closely together with their participating manufacturing contacts. Specifically, they download, research, analyze, and process manufacturers’ shipping and assembly records. They then process and data enter VIN decoding into our VIN Editing Database (VED) files, where the Lone Ranger of shipping requests provides the final piece! This team works together like a well oiled machine, each gear dependent on the other, to make the full VIN journey.

They’re always searching for new ways to provide data assistance. For example, they recently unveiled their newest achievement, NICB’s Boat Database! Our MIG Technical Analyst initiated this one of a kind Boat database, in partnership with the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA). Similar to the information captured from our vehicle manufacturers, this boat database provides a single resource for identifying marine vessels.

Many are not aware that the MIG Department also creates and produces our various NICB manuals. All of the data gathered from the group’s multiple manufacturing contacts are compiled and published in NICB’s passenger, heavy equipment and commercial manuals. In fact recently, the MIG Support Analyst has been working hard to transition these hard copy manuals, into the 21st Century. Electronic versions of the manuals will allow the content to be more accessible and convenient to users with current technology devices.

So, keep a look out…coming soon, to a smart phone or tablet device near you, might just be a downloadable E-Book version of one of our most popular manuals! Kudos to the MIG group and a big thank you, for all of the behind the scenes work they do!

VINCheck–Seven Years of Free Consumer Protection

Even as much of New Orleans remained underwater from Hurricane Katrina’s rampage, NICB went about preventing another calamity–the expected flood of water-damaged vehicles being sold to unsuspecting consumers around the nation. With estimates of Katrina-damaged vehicles approaching half a million units, NICB realized the public safety challenge that many of these vehicles would present if not quickly identified and tracked.

So it was against that backdrop that our member companies were asked to participate in a voluntary vehicle identification number (VIN) tracking project. Most of our member companies saw the benefit not only for public safety but for positive public relations that such a venture would inspire and they agreed to assist.

Thus the “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database” was launched on NICB’s website on October 17, 2005. It was an industry first and gave consumers unprecedented, free access to insurance company claims data on vehicles and boats that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

This resource was an immediate hit with consumers and numerous local, state and federal agencies and private sector entities across the nation linked their websites to NICB’s to allow their constituents easy access to this resource.

On November 7, 2007, NICB expanded this service to include information on unrecovered stolen vehicles and renamed it–VINCheck. In June, 2008, VINCheck was expanded yet again to provide data on vehicles that have been previously declared as salvage by participating NICB member insurance companies.

As it nears its seventh birthday, VINCheck remains the most visited page on NICB’s website receiving in the last 12 months over 1.6 million page visits. It is also frequently referenced in all kinds of media from local talk shows to national network radio and television stations and cable outlets.

A consumer recently posted her thoughts on our “Tell Us Your VINCheck Success Story” link on the NICB website. Here is an excerpt:

“It [2011 Mazda3i] had few miles and the seller kept telling me that the title was clean. He seemed suspicious though, and the price was a little too low. I decided to look up the vin number and through this site [VINCheck] I found out that it had had a salvaged title. The seller had been lying to me each time I asked. I didn’t purchase from him because he had lied repeatedly and didn’t know what else he could be lying about. I’m so glad that this site is around. It gives you the basic information for free! But the basic information was just enough to help me with this particular car. It then advises you to have the vehicle inspected if you are still thinking of purchasing it, and advises to have a full report done so you can see all the details. This site was easy to use, extremely useful, and free. I use this site on all vin numbers of vehicles that I am seriously contemplating. It has made my car search less intimidating. Thank you!”

This consumer is exactly the kind of person we had in mind back in 2005 when the Katrina Flood Vehicle Database came to life. We’re happy to say that today’s VINCheck continues to provide that same free access to millions of vehicle records–all made possible by participating NICB member companies and NICB’s 100-year commitment to fighting insurance crimes and vehicle theft.

For the price–nothing!–VINCheck remains the best vehicle history service in existence.

NICB’s Hot Wheels Classic Report: Chevrolet Corvette

NICB’s recently released Hot Wheel’s Classic report takes a look at the theft of Chevrolet Corvettes over the past 30 years. The following is taken from a press release issued by Frank Scafidi, director or public affairs.

A Truly Hot Car – More Than One in 10 Stolen Over Past 30 Years

Although racing purists might recognize the Stutz Bearcat or the Mercer Raceabout as America’s first sports cars, there is no question that the Chevrolet Corvette holds the title as America’s oldest, continuously produced sports car.

In this, NICB’s second Hot Wheels Classics report, we look at how the Corvette has fared as a theft target. For a video report on Corvette thefts, click here.

A Little Corvette History

The public saw the Corvette for the first time in January 1953, at the Motorama Show held at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. It went into full production on June 30, 1953, at the General Motors facility in Flint, Mich. By the end of the year, 300 were produced—all of them white convertibles with red interiors and black soft tops. The price tag was $3,498 with a heater and AM radio as the only options.

In 1954, Corvette production moved to a renovated facility in St. Louis, Mo., where it remained until 1981. That year, Corvette production moved into a new assembly facility at Bowling Green, Ky., where Corvettes continue to roll off the line today.

The first-generation Corvette—C1s as they are known—were manufactured from 1953-1962. Successive generations appeared in 1963 (C2); 1968 (C3); 1984 (C4); 1997 (C5); and in 2005 with the C6. A seventh-generation Corvette is expected sometime next year.

At the 1978 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Corvette made the first of its 10 appearances as the official Indy 500 Pace Car, an unmatched record on two counts—most appearances as a pace car and most consecutive years pacing the field (2004-2008).

Often compared to more exotic European sports cars, the Corvette has performed well in racing circuits around the globe. However, with the introduction of the supercharged, 620hp ZR-1 in 2009, Corvette has convinced its few remaining skeptics that it can perform on the world racing stage, as well as (and mostly better than) cars three times its price tag.

It’s no surprise then to find Corvette owners doting over their cars and keeping them in showroom condition. But like other items of high value and popular attraction, they get stolen. NICB reviewed Corvette theft data from 1953-2011 and identified 134,731 theft records. However, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required vehicle identification number (VIN) standardization beginning with the 1981 model year, confidence in pre-1981 records is low due to the inconsistency in reporting protocols and VIN systems. Consequently, only 1981 and later data was used to produce this report.

 Visit www.nicb.org to read the full press release.